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A Study of Pre-Algebra Learning in the Context of a Computer Game-Making Course

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

The Use of Games and Unique Textbooks in Mathematics Education

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Page Count


Page Numbers

24.112.1 - 24.112.8



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Paper Authors


Erin Shaw University of Southern California

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Erin Shaw is a Computer Scientist at the University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute, a research center at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. Her research focuses on modeling and assessing student knowledge in the areas of science and mathematics, experimenting with new technologies for aiding assessment in distance learning, and studying computer mediated social dialogue and team collaboration in post-secondary engineering education. She received an MA in Online and Distance Education from The Open University, an MS in Computer Graphics from Cornell University and a BS in Mathematics from Massachusetts State University, Fitchburg. Ms. Shaw has directed research as a co-principal investigator on several National Science Foundation sponsored grants. In 2013, she served as a STEM outreach specialist at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

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Jihie Kim University of Southern California

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Jihie Kim is the director of the Future Technologies Lab at KT. She received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Computer Science and Statistics from Seoul National University, and a PhD degree in Computer Science from the University of Southern California. She has been working at USC Information Sciences Institute, leading many NSF (National Science Foundation) projects on social dialogue, pedagogical technologies, and intelligent interfaces. At USC, she initiated research on on-line discussion board and assessment of threaded discussions, leading to synergistic work among knowledge base experts, educational psychologists, NLP researchers, and educators. She developed a novel workflow portal that supports efficient assessment of online discussion activities. In order to develop a research community for improving collaborative learning and communication in education, she created two workshops on Intelligent Support for Learning in Groups. She is currently editing an IJAIED journal special issue on the topic. Dr. Kim was the general chair of the IUI (Intelligent User Interfaces) conference 2013 and the poster co-chair of the AI in Education conference 2013. She was the publicity chair for the AI in Education conference in 2007. She served as the workshop and tutorial chair of the IUI 2005 conference and as the publicity chair of the IUI Conference in 2003 and 2004. She has been the program committee member of AAAI, AIEd, EDM, IUI, WWW, K-CAP, SocialCom, Social Informatics, CADUI conferences, and refereed papers for various AI and user interfaces journals and conferences.

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Zinan Xing University of Southern California

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Master's student majoring in Computer Science in University of Southern California.

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A Study of Pre-Algebra Learning in the Context of a Computer Game-Making Course Blind SubmissionAbstractIn this paper, we report the outcomes of the first implementation of [a new pre-algebra learningcurriculum based on game design]. The curriculum is the result of a National Science Foundation[program] grant to explore novel ways to teach standards-based content and 21st century skill tounderperforming high school students in Los Angeles. The project’s goals are to addressretention, career education and secondary mathematics learning. Game design is being used toengage students and to provide a grounding context for the mathematics. The effort is meetingthe challenge of teaching math across the curriculum and is leading to the development of newstrategies to embed mathematics in authentic contexts.PedagogyLearning in the context of computer game making is best framed by the philosophy ofConstructionism, which is the idea that learning is most effective when part of an activity thelearner experiences as constructing a meaningful product (Papert, 1987; also Kafai, 2008).Following a recent trend in STEM education, the program uses a STEM to STEAM (Science,Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) approach to learning, which is the practice ofintegrating art and/or design with traditional STEM learning to increase interest and impact(Maeda, 2013). The importance of the practice is being recognized at high levels (Bonamici,2013).MethodologyDuring the fall of 2011, fifty students participated in a pilot program to study mathematicslearning in the context of making computer games. During class students created two differentgames – a maze game (e.g. PacMan) and a shooting scroller game (e.g. Space Invaders). Eachgame exercised a different set of mathematical concepts. Game making classes were interspersedwith activities that involved mathematics directly, for example, including doing worksheets andplaying math games; or indirectly, for example, manipulating math concepts that occurred whilemaking games. Students took short self-quizzes after each step of the game making process toreinforce concepts. Pre and post math tests were administered before and after students createdgames. The results of learning gains from pre-test to post-test are reported on here.ResultsData from pre and post tests were analyzed The highest learning gains for the maze gameoccurred in graphing and rates concepts, as well as fractions, percentages and factors. Thehighest for the shooter game occurred in the average, length, percent and probability calculations.[Extra Page for Figures and References]ResultsFigure 1 Maze test (top) and shooter test (bottom) results. Maze Pre Post Test Maze Pre Post Test Results Results100% 100% 0% 0% Q9 Q5 Q7 Q8 Q6 Q4 Q3 Q2 Q1 Q9 4 5 3 7 2 8 1 6 Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q (Pre) correct (Pre) correct percent       Scroller Pre Post Test Scroller Pre Post Test Results Results150% 150%100% 100% 50% 50% 0% 0% Q5Q8Q3Q4Q6Q2Q7Q1 Q5Q8Q3Q4Q6Q2Q7Q1 (Pre) correct (Pre) correct percent (Post) correct (Post) correct percent    ReferencesBonamici, S. (2013) “Congresswoman Bonamici Asks about the Importance of STEAMEducation”, Hearing of the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, Hearingentitled “American Competitiveness: The Role of Research and Development. Available at, John (2013) “STEM + Art = STEAM”, The STEAM Journal: Vol. 1, Iss. 1, Article 34.Available at:

Shaw, E., & Kim, J., & Xing, Z. (2014, June), A Study of Pre-Algebra Learning in the Context of a Computer Game-Making Course Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20004

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